Photo: Guillaume Bonnefont by Moso International B.V.

Bamboo is the sustainable alternative

A bamboo plant consists of several hollow trunks. Every year the plant forms new shoots. In general, 20-25% of the stems can be harvested each year in sustainably managed plantations or forests. The rapid formation of new stems does not reduce their number per hectare. Due to the selective deforestation the plant lives on and by definition no clear cutting takes place. On the contrary: When the mature trunks are cut, not only the yield but also the quality of the bamboo stock improves.

Healthy indoor climate - low emissions

A healthy indoor climate is extremely important. Although bamboo is a natural material, additives (varnish, oil, wax) are required for gluing and finishing. They may contain harmful components such as formaldehyde, which may escape from the end product. In Europe and the USA there are very strict rules and standards for the emissions of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) indoors. In Europe, for example, formaldehyde emissions are severely limited by the EN-717 standard. Products whose emission values comply with this standard (i.e. have lower emissions) are marked 'E1'. All MOSO products sold by Qin International meet at least this standard - some even the strictest: E0, no formaldehyde detectable! Moreover, all MOSO bamboo floors sold by Qin International are classified A and A+ according to the French classification for volatile organic compounds (VOCs): the best possible classification.

The Life Cycle Assessment of Qin Bamboo Products

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the generally accepted method for systematically assessing the environmental impact of a product or material over its entire life cycle, i.e. from the extraction of the resource to the final phase of destruction and recycling (from cradle to grave). The LCA methodology is internationally standardised in the ISO14040 series and measures environmental impacts in several categories, including exhaustion, air quality (dust, smog), toxicity, global warming potential (GWP). The environmental impacts of products can be expressed in an equation, for example as environmental costs. In view of the increasing attention to global warming, the GWP of products is often separated from the GWP by a carbon footprint. In this assessment, all greenhouse gas emissions in the life cycle of a product are measured in kg CO2 equivalent. The two leading research institutions in the field of LCA, Carbon Footprint and Bamboo are Delft University of Technology and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan These two institutions have carried out a number of scientific publications including an official Life Cycle Assessment (including climate balance) according to ISO 14040 and 14044 standards. These are listed below under References.

The official Life Cycle Assessment shows that bamboo is an important CO2 fixer.

This means that bamboo absorbs a relatively large amount of CO2 from the atmosphere during its growth and life up to harvest, and at the same time releases an equal amount of oxygen (O2) through photosynthesis. Since the area of Moso bamboo plantations is constantly growing worldwide, an increasing amount of CO2 is permanently trapped in the plantation plants.

After harvesting, this CO2 remains permanently trapped in the bamboo material and is only released again when the material is recycled and incinerated at the end of its life cycle. This is preferably done in power plants where it is used as a substitute for carbon-intensive fossil fuels. This allows additional CO2 emission credits to be generated according to the LCA methodology. On the other hand, CO2 is released by the machinery and transportation needed to produce the bamboo products and deliver them to the end users. It is very important for us to keep greenhouse gas emissions during these processes as low as possible, for example through efficient production and the use of sawdust as an energy source, direct distribution with short distances and CO2 neutral packaging. The CO2 balance of a product can be determined over its entire life cycle. Emissions during manufacture, transport and use are determined by comparing a product's CO2 balance with its CO2 fixation and the substitution of fossil fuels in the end-of-life phase. If the emission credits from CO2 fixation and fossil fuel substitution are greater than the CO2 emissions, the product is CO2 neutral.

The Life Cycle Assessment report assesses Moso bamboo products as CO2 neutral or better over their entire life cycle.

The increasing speed with which renewable materials are used in terms of annual returns in cubic metres per hectare is not yet included in this life cycle assessment. This is an additional environmental benefit of renewable raw materials in general and most fast-growing materials such as Moso bamboo in particular.

Further references

J.G. Vogtländer (2011). Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Sequestration- Bamboo products of MOSO International. Delft University of Technology

P. van der Lugt, J.G. Vogtländer, J.C. Brezet (2009). Bamboo, a Sustainable Solution for Western Europe; Design Cases, LCAs and Land-use. VSSD publishers, Delft, the Netherlands. ISBN 978-90-6562-196-2.

P. van der Lugt, J.G. Vogtländer, J.C. Brezet (2009). Bamboo, a Sustainable Solution for Western Europe INBAR Technical Report 30. INBAR, Beijing, China.

J.G. Vogtländer, P. van der Lugt, J.C. Brezet (2010). The sustainability of bamboo products for local and Western European applications; LCAs and land use. Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010): pp 1260-1269.

P. van der Lugt (2008). Design Intervention for Stimulating Bamboo Commercialisation - Dutch Design meets Bamboo as a Replicable Model. PhD dissertation. Delft University of Technology & VSSD Publishers, Delft, the Netherlands.
ISBN 978-90-5155-047-4.

Moso Green Credentials

Bamboo Life Cycle Assessment LCA